• Coben
    832
    You seem to be distinguishing between informatoin and meaning. I am not sure where you are going from there. I did a study of the phenomenology of metaphors, me just 'seeing' what actually happens when I hear or read a new metaphor. I noticed the experiences elicited in my mind, images and feelings, when I heard the metaphor. After a while I noticed what other words and phrases elicited. I could see that meaning is actually this eliciting of an experience. Meaning is an internal experience. With words we know well, this happens so fast we don't notice it. With novel metaphors the process is slowed way down, so I could track it. Meanings in different persons are idiosyncratic. But they function well enough, muhc of the time, so we commicate ok.

    For me things other than words can elicit meanings. I gave examples. Experiences are elicited by a variety of communicative acts. And even acts that are not communicative. We attribute meaning to the woman turning away, but actually she was going to sneeze. Meanings are elicited by all sortsof things. In fact we can read meaning into things and be correct and the other person didn't even reaiize their body communicated what they were thnking. And they said nothing.
  • Janus
    8.2k
    I haven't said meaning is prior to existence. And perhaps I wasn't entirely clear: the rest I mentioned was meant to be taken in the context of biological, or at least animal, life.
  • creativesoul
    6k


    All good. I'm more critical than usual tonight. That follows from what you did say.
  • Janus
    8.2k
    No worries mate...
  • creativesoul
    6k


    Cheers. All settled in, or amidst the move still?
  • Janus
    8.2k
    Still working on the house, the revised plan is to have it on the market within two weeks. I'm behind schedule as I aggravated the hip abductor tendons, and the physiotherapist says it will take about 12 weeks of exercises to fix. It hasn't stopped me, but has slowed me down considerably.
  • creativesoul
    6k


    Sometimes you'll have that. Unfortunate circumstances. PT can help considerably, or so I've heard. Take it easy. Hope reality exceeds expectation... in the best way.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    I thin there is a need here to differentiate between value and meaning. Value is what we assign to things, based on usefulness or some other principle. Since it is what human beings assign, it is argued that value is subjective. Meaning is said to be within the things themselves, as property of the thing (for example, words are said to have meaning), and so it is argued that meaning is objective.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    For reference, Heidegger's Being and Time, but also some of his other "stuff." And a much more accessible and deeper, although by no means easier, explication of these ideas, including a working-out of them in detail both backwards and forwards: The Hermeneutics of Original Argument, P. C. Smith, 1998.tim wood

    I've read a little about hermeneutics and thought it might have something to offer. It's the study of texts and stories, isn't it? I'll take a look at the reference and see what I think. Thanks.

    But, you haven't answered the question, or have you? Do you need words to have meaning.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.5k
    If meaning isn't separate from words, then among other things, you need to say that a piece of paper with words written on it literally has meaning on the paper.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    The art installation you mentioned, for instance, meant something to you before your discussion - before there were words. That’s the point of art: to manifest meaning (a relation between what matters) in a shared experience. You evaluated that experience initially in relation to your own subjective position as an engineer. That’s still meaning.Possibility

    I wonder: if you didn’t have words in this situation, would you have just stood there next to your friend and experienced the artwork without at least attempting to share the experience or what it meant to you? Would you say that what the artwork meant to your friend and to the art student mattered to you in some way? And even if you failed in your attempt, would the art then have ceased to mean anything to you?Possibility

    My visit to the museum is what set this whole question off for me. It was the experience of looking at the piece without judging or explaining followed by the discussion of it's meaning. I could feel both at the same time - my immediate pleasure and interest followed by my attempts to explain it in words. That's when I raised the question, first to myself and then to the others. That comparison of the pre-word and post-word experiences is what lead to my thought that it had value and significance before we spoke, but it didn't have meaning until we did.

    As I was writing this, this came to mind - If meaning just means value, significance, essence, then we don't need the word at all. When I've said something has meaning, it means it has more than just those things. When I tried to explain the meaning to others, my relation to the camera installation became something different than what it was before.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    The comment of Gabiz is an empirical one. It's not philosophical. It's scientific. It states, without leaving the armchair and doing any experimentiion, that human cognition must be preceeded by translating our observations into symbolic form first. Without it, it is concluded, we stare mindlessly not even knowing we did not know, counting the seconds until our minds make words so we finally get, know, understand our world.

    I don't deny that I (just me, as I'm an expert on me) gain knowledge by deliberating internally, and often that deliberation is linguistic, but I deny entirely that I know nothing before the internal words form, and I often (very often as I age I must add) fully understand a concept and know there is a precise word to describe it, but think deeply as I may, but I just can't find it. That is, the knowledge preceeds the word.

    In any event, if it is your scientific theory that humans cannot know prior to placing a thought into words, you must deal with the curious case of Hanover who says he can, because the data gathered from me is as important a the data gathered from your own introspection.

    And I look back to gabiz and your interaction. What is that but an admission that you had a thought but had not placed it into words, and now you thank him for saying what you meant ?
    Hanover

    If I understand correctly, you are saying that meaning and knowledge are the same thing. Is that correct? I think they are something completely different. I agree with you that it is possible to know something without words.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    How terribly un-Daoist of you!Janus

    Funny you should say that. As I've been thinking about the people who have been disagreeing with me about this in this thread, I came to realize that my understanding of meaning is related to my understanding of what Lao Tzu wrote. Meaning is the pry bar by which we separate the unspeakable oneness that existed before the gods into the 10,000 things we live with on a daily basis.
  • tim wood
    3k
    But, you haven't answered the question, or have you? Do you need words to have meaning.T Clark

    Seems to me to depend on what is meant by "meaning." Homer has Odysseus "nodding with his brows," by which his son Telemachus is given to understand that a whole sequence of events is about to unfold.

    Or, words, and other media, like brows, convey meaning; meaning is prior to its expression. On this understanding, meaning in itself has in-a-way nothing to do with words, any more than a box has anything to do with what is in the box.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    You seem to be distinguishing between informatoin and meaning. I am not sure where you are going from there. I did a study of the phenomenology of metaphors, me just 'seeing' what actually happens when I hear or read a new metaphor. I noticed the experiences elicited in my mind, images and feelings, when I heard the metaphor. After a while I noticed what other words and phrases elicited. I could see that meaning is actually this eliciting of an experience. Meaning is an internal experience. With words we know well, this happens so fast we don't notice it. With novel metaphors the process is slowed way down, so I could track it. Meanings in different persons are idiosyncratic. But they function well enough, muhc of the time, so we commicate ok.Coben

    I have had similar experiences with metaphors. LIke you, I've paid particular attention to them, especially the metaphors I create myself. Language is important to me. Here's how the experience lays out for me - I come on a situation, an experience, a statement, a thought. As I try to come to terms with it, sometimes another situation, experience, statement, or thought will come to mind spontaneously. When I think about that, I often find that the new thought has something in common with the first one. A relationship of similarity usually in only one relevant dimension. A simple one - hand is to glove as foot is to glove. My favorite German word is faust handshueh - fist hand shoe. It means mitten.

    Often the relationships are much more obscure to me. What I find is that the two thoughts have tags on them. Feelings, moods, sometimes even colors. When I encountered the previous situation in the past, I guess I gave it one of these mental tags. When I encounter the current situation, I give it a similar tag which makes the connection. That's how it feels to me. I don't know what the actual mechanism is.

    Thanks for bringing this up. It is one of my favorite experiences and I haven't tried putting it into words for others before. On the other hand, I don't see what it has to do with meaning.

    For me things other than words can elicit meanings. I gave examples. Experiences are elicited by a variety of communicative acts. And even acts that are not communicative. We attribute meaning to the woman turning away, but actually she was going to sneeze. Meanings are elicited by all sortsof things. In fact we can read meaning into things and be correct and the other person didn't even reaiize their body communicated what they were thnking. And they said nothing.Coben

    I see meaning as different than communication. [edit - I see I didn't respond to your whole point]. Two situations - 1) The person who didn't speak with you experienced value, significance, feelings, and then used internal words to explain it to themselves, thus, meaning. 2) The same person experienced value, significance, feelings, but did not put them into words, thus, no meaning.

    That seems screwy doesn't it? I'll think about it more.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Seems to me to depend on what is meant by "meaning." Homer has Odysseus "nodding with his brows," by which his son Telemachus is given to understand that a whole sequence of vents is about to unfold.

    Or, words, and other media, like brows, convey meaning; meaning is prior to its expression. On this understanding, meaning in itself has in-a-way nothing to do with words, any more than a box has anything to do with what is in the box.
    tim wood

    Good example. I'll think about that.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    If meaning isn't separate from words, then among other things, you need to say that a piece of paper with words written on it literally has meaning on the paper.Terrapin Station

    I didn't say that meaning isn't separate from words. I said, tentatively, that there is no meaning without words.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.5k


    I was addressing the question asked at the start: "Is meaning something separate from words?"
  • Janus
    8.2k
    So the unspeakable oneness has no inherent meaning, but we create it with our words? But then, what about image and sound, scent and dance?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    So the unspeakable oneness has no inherent meaning, but we create it with our words? But then, what about image and sound, scent and dance?Janus

    I certainly haven't reached enlightenment. I can't experience the universe in its undivided wholeness. But sometimes I can experience parts of the world that way - without words, judgments, concepts - often just for a brief period of time. When I do, it feels the same way it does when I look at a painting or listen to a wonderful piece of music without trying to explain it or understand it in any expressible way. In both cases, then the words come along and something is added and something is lost.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    I was addressing the question asked at the start: "Is meaning something separate from words?"Terrapin Station

    Do you mean to say that not everything is about me? Shocking.

    I guess I interpreted the OP to be asking the question I was trying to answer - Can meaning only be expressed using words and, more, does it have to be expressed at all? Perhaps I misunderstood.
  • Janus
    8.2k
    In both cases, then the words come along and something is added and something is lost.T Clark

    What you say there certainly coheres with my own experience. When you experience parts of the world without words, judgements and concepts, though, would you say that experience has no meaning? Or is it that it has no determinate meaning? Or, for example, when listening to music without lyrics, would you say the music has no meaning to you? Could you even articulate what it is like to listen to music?
  • Possibility
    498
    My visit to the museum is what set this whole question off for me. It was the experience of looking at the piece without judging and explaining followed by the discussion of it's meaning. I could feel both at the same time - my immediate pleasure and interest followed by my attempts to explain it in words. That's when I raised the question, first to myself and then to the others. That comparison of the pre-word and post-word experiences is what lead to my thought that it had value and significance before we spoke, but it didn't have meaning until we did.T Clark

    This is where I think we tend to confuse the meaning of meaning, as well as value and significance. When you say it had ‘value and significance’ before you spoke, the way I see it, the art mattered to you regardless of whether or not you could attribute any particular significance or value to it. It’s because it matters that it has meaning.

    Bacteria ‘feels’ an interest towards a certain chemical gradient and moves to interact with it, although it has no awareness of its significance, let alone what event or object it signifies. The gradient has meaning for the bacteria (ie. it matters), but it is only aware of that meaning (why it matters) on a two-dimensional level.

    So when you say ‘it didn’t have meaning’ until you spoke, that’s just an initial lack of awareness in relation to particular value and significance. By attempting to explain it in words, you increase not only your awareness of the artwork (particularly in relation to its value and significance), but also your connection to it and collaboration with the information it presents - this happens on a five-dimensional level, interacting with the relative value and significance of words, as well as memories, thoughts, feelings, reason, etc from your sum of experience, your BoK.

    As I was writing this, this came to mind - If meaning just means value, significance, essence, then we don't need the word at all. When I've said something has meaning, it means it has more than just those things. When I tried to explain the meaning to others, my relation to the camera became something different than what it was before.T Clark

    This is the part I find fascinating. As I see it, the discussion you have then brings three different perspectives of value and significance together, and the relationship between them gives rise to a particular meaning that is shared and shareable, because that meaning (as a relation between what matters - including you, the artwork, your friend and the art student) can been ‘collapsed’ through your interaction to the value and significance of shared words.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    What you say there certainly coheres with my own experience. When you experience parts of the world without words, judgements and concepts, though, would you say that experience has no meaning? Or is it that it has no determinate meaning? Or, for example, when listening to music without lyrics, would you say the music has no meaning to you? Could you even articulate what is it like to listen to music?Janus

    The following passage, I apologize for its length, is from "October Light" a novel by John Gardner. I also apologize to the ghost of Mr. Gardner because I've separated the passage into paragraphs while he had it as one long one. I think I understand why he did it that way, but I wanted to make it easier to read. I love it and, to tell the truth, I'm not sure if it supports my position or not. But, as I said, I love it.

    Then it had come to him as a startling revelation-though he couldn't explain even to his horn teacher Andre Speyer why it was that he found the discovery startling-that the music meant nothing at all but what it was: panting, puffing, comically hurrying French horns. That had been, ever since- until tonight- what he saw when he closed his eyes and listened: horns, sometimes horn players, but mainly horn sounds, the very nature of horn sounds, puffing, hurrying, . getting in each other's way yet in wonderful agreement finally, as if by accident. Sometimes, listening, he would smile, and his father would say quizzically, "What's with you?" It was the same when he listened to the other movements: What he saw was French horns,. that is, the music. The moods changed, things happened, but only to French horns, French horn sounds.

    There was a four -note theme in the second movement that sounded like ..Oh When the Saints," a theme that shifted from key to key, sung with great confidence by a solo horn, answered by a kind of scornful gibberish from the second, third, and fourth, as if the first horn's opinion was ridiculous and they knew what they knew. Or the slow movement: As if they'd finally stopped and thought it out, the horns played together, a three-note broken chord several times repeated, and then the first horn taking off as if at the suggestion of the broken chord and flying like a gull-except not like a gull, nothing like that, flying like only a solo French horn. Now the flying solo became the others' suggestion and the chord began to undulate, and all four horns together were saying something, almost words, first a mournful sound like Maybe and then later a desperate oh yes I think so, except to give it words was to change it utterly: it was exactly what it was, as clear as day-or a moonlit lake where strange creatures lurk- and nothing could describe it but itself. It wasn't sad,. the slow movement; only troubled, hesitant, exactly as he often felt himself. Then came- and he would sometimes laugh aloud- the final, fast movement.

    Though the slow movement's question had never quite been answered, all the threat was still there, the fast movement started with absurd self-confidence, with some huffings and puffings, and then the first horn set off wit h delightful bravado, like a fat man on skates who hadn't skated in years (but not like a fat man on skates, like nothing but itself), Woo-woo-woo-woops! and the spectator horns laughed tiggledy-tiggledy­ tiggledy!, or that was vaguely the idea- every slightly wrong chord, every swoop, every hand-stop changed everything completely ... It was impossible to say what , precisely, he meant.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    So when you say ‘it didn’t have meaning’ until you spoke, that’s just an initial lack of awareness in relation to particular value and significance. By attempting to explain it in words, you increase not only your awareness of the artwork (particularly in relation to its value and significance), but also your connection to it and collaboration with the information it presents - this happens on a five-dimensional level, interacting with the relative value and significance of words, as well as memories, thoughts, feelings, reason, etc from your sum of experience, your BoK.Possibility

    Hey, you can't bring things I said in another thread to use against me!!! Well, yes, I guess you can.

    Anyway, you and I clearly don't agree on this issue. I don't think how I saw the camera, or any other art, is a matter of an "initial lack of awareness.” I think it had value, it was moving, but it did not have meaning. See the quote from "October Light" I posted just above. It seems to me to be getting at some of what I am trying to get across, although, as I wrote, I'm not sure if it supports my position or not.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    If meaning isn't separate from words, then among other things, you need to say that a piece of paper with words written on it literally has meaning on the paper.Terrapin Station

    So what's wrong with that? The meaning is literally on the paper. The meaning is literally in the words. I see no problem with this. Meaning is a property of the words, just like beauty is a property of the piece of art, and length, as well as colour, are properties of the object. How could this be wrong?
  • Janus
    8.2k
    Yeah, it's an evocative passage! All those visual and verbal associations the author finds in the music; would you not count those as pre-verbally meaningful? In articulating them has Gardner brought those associations into being, or were they visualized pre-verbally and then determined, kind of 'pinned down" in language? Are the associations as rich when linguistically pinned down, or are they a myriad of complex indeterminate associations/ feelings traded for single determinate images that despite their determinateness, are only approximate? These are open questions; I'm not forwarding an answer here. Anyway it's an interesting topic you have created!
  • creativesoul
    6k
    I think there is a need here to differentiate between value and meaning. Value is what we assign to things, based on usefulness or some other principle.Metaphysician Undercover

    I would deny this account/report.

    The value of food is not assigned. Food was valuable to us long before we ever said that.

    Meaning is attributed. The meaning of "meaning" and the meaning of "value" are both attributed in the exact same way as the meaning of any word is. Correlations drawn between the word and other things.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Meaning is a property of the words...Metaphysician Undercover

    Meaning is not a property of words. Meaning is attributed to and/or with words when correlations are drawn between the words and something else. We learn all about trees by talking in terms of "trees". Talking in terms of "trees" makes trees significant to us. In normal usage, it picks trees out of the world to the exclusion of all else. There are other uses. In all, the word "tree" is meaningful inasmuchas someone draws a correlation between it and/or it's use and something else. If all users of "tree" die, there is no one to draw a correlation between the word and something else. The word is no longer a part of any meaningful correlations. In such a case, the word is meaningless.
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